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Articles > Sports & Fitness June, 03, 2015

The Dad Bod: Burgers over biceps and why women prefer it

Charlotte Swale
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8.06 / 10

The “Dad Bod” is taking the internet by storm. Generally described as a man who is more about pizza than push ups, it has created quite a discussion about male beauty standards. And it has also allowed men to experience the hypocrisy that women experience every single day.

What is the dad bod

Photo by
J Baek

The “Dad Bod” is used to refer to men who prefer beer and curry to salad. They are not ridiculously overweight, but equally they are several gym sessions away from a washboard stomach. Some prominent examples of the Dad Bod are Leonardo Di Caprio, Seth Rogan and Jon Hamm, to name but a few. There are many sites which are jumping in on trying to determine exactly what constitutes a “Dad Bod”, even the New York Times is getting in on the act.

Many of the articles I have already read online have comment sections full of men complaining that chubby men are no better that skinny men, and that you don’t have to be fat to be lovable. While this is true, it also shows that men are waking up to the double standards which are portrayed in the media every day about beauty. Men have always had monopoly on deciding what is attractive, and now the tables have turned they are not happy.

“We should be promoting health rather than size, size 32 is not healthier than size 2”

I was thinking about the plus-size model Tess Holliday, and how ridiculous it was for her to claim to be a role model for young women when she was endangering her health, when any size 0 model would be condemned for making similar statements. Women are constantly bombarded with conflicting messages about “loving their body” while also getting “beach body ready.” The wires have become so crossed that it is impossible to know whether it is more attractive to be thin or curvy in 2015. We should be promoting health rather than size, size 32 is not healthier than size 2, and people who maintain a healthy lifestyle and have a natural body shape should be the ones claiming to be role models. Women are faced with an uphill battle to be thought of as “attractive”, and these double standards have generally been set by men.

But now these same men are facing their own hypocrisy, and they really don’t like it. Of course male beauty standards have always existed, but until now it has been generally felt that the athletic physique was desirable and that anything else didn’t quite cut the mustard. It has always been acceptable for men to say they prefer a curvier woman over a slimmer one, but now that women are saying they would prefer a Seth Rogan over a Channing Tatum, the men are outraged. I saw one guy claiming that it is only women who aren’t capable of getting a “hunk” who will settle for a fat guy instead. Can you imagine if a woman had said the same about a guy who preferred Holly Willoughby to Megan Fox?

I, for one, am glad for the emergence of the “Dad Bod”, and for two reasons. Firstly, my better half is the proud owner of a dad bod, and he is finally accepting that it is not just me who finds his physique attractive. Secondly, it had brought men and women together in a shared sense of hypocrisy. Men are finally experiencing what it is like to be presented with a Catch 22 of beauty standards, where they are expected to be simultaneously chubby but athletic, slim but capable of eating an entire pizza. For once it is men who are being put on a pedestal for women to critique, and my sincere hope is that it will eventually lead to the annihilation of hypocritical beauty standards. Hopefully we can get to a stage where health triumphs over appearance, for the good of males and females alike.

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  1. Adam Stelmach

    If only the author understood attraction then her arguments might have been coherent. Most of your points are simply nonsensical.

    “Men have always had monopoly on deciding what is attractive” – ummm no, I’m afraid BIOLOGY has always had a monopoly on what is attractive. Neither men nor women choose what they find attractive. If they did, why would so many men choose to be attracted to gorgeous A-list celebrity women with whom they have no chance of ever copulating? Why would men all over the world willingly inflict such torture on themselves? If we could choose who we were attracted to surely we would opt for a more plain, realistic type of girl who we encounter in our everyday lives. So no, your false premise destroys your assertion. Men do not get together once a year at a big secret conference and decide what is going to be defined as attractive, we are told by our bodies what we find attractive. Unfortunately many women simply hate this fact because they fall far short of the ideal. Such is life.

    “Women are constantly bombarded with conflicting messages about “loving their body” while also getting “beach body ready.”” – how are those messages conflicting? Love your body by treating it right: eat a clean, balanced diet, exercise regularly and take care of your general appearance. Do these things consistently and you will be ‘beach body ready’ AND you will probably love your body more than you ever have before. But again, many women despise the suggestion that they might want to get a ‘beach body’ because they know that it takes sustained hard work and that it implies that they do not already have a beautiful body – and many are offended by this because they feel entitled to be swamped in love just as they are, even if they are fat, lazy and physically repulsive because they don’t take care of themselves. Sorry to burst your bubble but if you don’t put the work in, you’re probably not going to look beautiful. I mean, you wouldn’t turn up to an exam having done absolutely no work and expect to be given a top grade just because of who you are, would you? Beauty is no different.

    “Women are faced with an uphill battle to be thought of as “attractive”, and these double standards have generally been set by men” – firstly, EVERYONE is faced with an uphill battle to be thought of as attractive. Do you think men are simply born with a six pack, a great sense of humour, fantastic sporting talent or whatever other characteristics you find attractive in men? Nope, guess again. And secondly, as I have already shown above, the standards for female beauty are not SET by men, they are biologically programmed into us and we simply relay the message. Don’t shoot the messenger.

    “But now these same men are facing their own hypocrisy, and they really don’t like it” – what hypocrisy are you talking about? Apart from slight deviations between individual preferences, men have always been quite consistent in what they find to be attractive – typically slim but not so slight as to be skinny or boney, with a roughly hourglass type figure (wider at the hips and breasts, narrower at the waist), a pretty face, perky breasts (size preference differs) and a firm, round arse. I can’t see how that consitutes a hypocritical or double standard; it is simply a high standard. Get over it.

    “Men are finally experiencing what it is like to be presented with a Catch 22 of beauty standards, where they are expected to be simultaneously chubby but athletic, slim but capable of eating an entire pizza” – again I have to ask, where is the contradictory catch 22 element? Even if the dad bod craze is genuine, all that means is that X amount of women prefer a non-athletic male body to an athletic one. There is no pressure for men to be both athletic AND non-athletic, it is simply that he will never be considered attractive by all women equally. That isn’t a problem. That’s called individual preference and believe me men understand that. You simply have to accept that the same is true in the reverse direction, that men’s individual preferences also differ and deviate from the norm. But this doesn’t present you with a catch 22, it simply forces you to accept that you will never be attractive to everyone at the same time. That’s life.

  2. Finlay Lowe

    I think…its mental how men usually have to make a effort, you know stay in shape, fine cloths, good features. But suddenly this “Dad bod” shit comes out cus a few celebs have it. if a women had to choose between Fit bloke or in essence a fat dad, she’d pick the Fit bloke.

  3. Arianis Rivera

    Your article is great, what your saying about health over appearance i wish it were like that but its not and if it ever were to happen its be great but i don’t think it will happen any time soon.

  4. Derren

    Why has an article on the dad bod turned into a discussion about women?
    You do realise that the aspirations of body type that women have come from your own magazines and female celebrities? I disagree with you completely that most comments made on a woman’s appearance are made by male journalists. This is patently false. You need to do more research if you think men edit women’s glossy magazines.

  5. Charlotte Swale

    Thanks for your comment Adam, however I feel you have misunderstood the tone of my article.
    When I am talking about attraction, I am talking about what society portrays as attractive. I am talking about the messages portrayed in mainstream media about what is considered to be attractive to society at that moment in time. Obviously people have their own individual attractions, but there is a general message put out as to what is fashionable and attractive to the general population at any given moment. If you look at fashion magazines and the tabloids, you’ll see that the majority of comments made about women’s appearance are made by male journalists, hence my arguments that beauty standards are created by men.
    Secondly, you only have to pick up any celebrity magazine to see conflicting messages about body size. Within a few pages you will see a size 0 model being condemned for encouraging young girls to be underweight, while a few pages later a celebrity will be condemned for putting on a few pounds. In society, it is simultaneously unacceptable to be thin or fat, while it is simultaneously fashionable to be thin or fat.

    When I’m discussing the concept of attraction, I am talking about what is accepted as attractive by the population as a whole. Individual standards are always going to vary, and of course people have the right to fancy who they choose, but society needs to pick a message and stick to it, and that message should be one of health over appearance.
    And on the fact that “many women fall short of the ideal”, if the ideal is what you describe, then I fully live up to that exact “ideal”, yet even I feel pressured to lose weight or gain weight. Each man and women is going to have their ideas of what is attractive, but society needs to be coherent in the message that healthy is attractive.

    Thanks again for the comment and for reading the article, and I hope I’ve cleared up some of my points for you.

    • Adam Stelmach

      Charlotte you have more or less just disproven your own argument. You maintain that “beauty standards are created by men” but look at the sources you have listed for providing this mainstream media image of what is attractive: fashion magazines, tabloids (or more specifically the sections within tabloids dedicated to fashion and women’s appearance) and ‘celebrity magazines’. Do you know what these 3 things have in common? They are all almost exclusively targeted at women because women are by far the majority demographic that reads them.

      It may or may not be men who write specific articles – I don’t know and I suspect you don’t either as you’ve provided no proof – but the fact is those articles which you describe as hypocritically condemning both size 0 models and those who have put on a few pounds ARE WRITTEN FOR WOMEN TO READ BECAUSE WOMEN PAY TO READ THIS STUFF. Women are the primary consumers of this gossipy and bitchy material that focuses on how one famous woman has put on 6 lbs while another is looking freakishly thin. 99.99% of men haven’t read a fashion magazine or a copy of ‘Hello’ in their entire lives.

      The corollary to that fact is this: men, in any meaningful sense of the word, are not the ones responsible for the conflicting media messages you are complaining about. Those messages are found almost exclusively in women’s media – you won’t find them in Men’s Health or in tech magazines or in the sports section of the newspaper. Men simply do not care about size 0 fashion models or what famous celebrity is still carrying baby weight.

      So if you want to end the mixed messages you’re receiving about women’s bodies and attractiveness then I’d suggest you figure out a way to help women realise that by buying the types of trashy media discussed above they are responsible for perpetuating such messages, therefore punishing themselves and other women like yourself.

      I’d also like you to respond to one of my other arguments which you ignored, which is that even if men do or did comment on the standard for what constitutes an attractive woman, they are not CREATING beauty standards. Beauty standards exist on a subconscious biological level meaning I cannot choose what I am attracted to, nor can anyone else. We can only describe what we find innately attractive. Men do not create beauty standards, we simply describe them. As I said in my previous comment, we are only the messengers so please don’t shoot us.

      How would you respond to that?

      • Charlotte Swale

        My response would be that yes, these types of media are generally targeted at women, but the magazines and tabloids are controlled and edited by men. Men like yourself are responsible for determining what is considered attractive (as you have already stated by giving a general overview of what you consider to be attractive, which generally conforms to society’s standards of the last decade). My point is that women have faced this type of attention for decades,whereas men have generally avoided being scrutinized over their weight or body type in the mainstream media. Women are always being condemned for being too fat or too thin, and men are finally getting a taste of what that is like.
        Considering you have already described your ideal “type” and described anyone who is fat as “physicallly repulsive” I’m assuming you fall into the “thin good, fat bad” camp, as is your right to do so. All I’m trying to say is that, regardless of gender, society should be promoting health over appearance. Personally, I couldn’t care less what size a person is, as long as they maintain a healthy lifestyle and look after their body.
        This article was not intended to be about how women feel about their body, it was to draw attention to the rise of the fuller figured male and why I personally find it more appealing than a guy who spends every waking moment in the gym. Contrary to your opinion I have met many men who feel that the rise of the “dad bod” has made them think twice about whether 5 gym sessions a week is really necessary. Most of society’s opinions are targeted at women, but these opinions are publicized and distributed by men, in the same way that the typicial man in the pub will whistle at the slim attractive girl while laughing at the slightly overweight girl. For you to say that men don;t dictate what is considered attractive shows your naivety about what women experience on a daily basis. The title of this article when I originally submitted it was “The Dad Bod:men finally experiencing what it is like to be female”, because men need to realise exactly what women go through on a daily basis when it comes to body image and objectification. Until that happens, unfair and hypocritical body standards will continue to exist

  6. Rhys

    As a member of a local cricket club, it is a fact that all people come in different shapes and sizes. That is no issue. All are fit enough to run around the pitch, but more than happy to go to a gym or get wasted the next day. We all abuse are bodies, more some than others. There’s no winning with bodies